|Take it to heart|
If you could better your chances at winning the lottery, you would do it, right? But when it comes to bettering our chances of preventing heart disease, many of us waste golden opportunities. True, heart disease isn’t always avoidable—you can’t do anything about risk factors such as increasing age and heredity. But you can do something about six other factors:
- Quit smoking
- Plenty of aids are available to help you kick the habit, from nicotine patches and lozenges to inhalers and nicotine-free medicine. Talk with your healthcare provider about choosing the best one for you. If you don’t smoke, try to avoid secondhand exposure.
Lower high blood pressure
- Carve time out of your day to work out. Get in at least 30 minutes all at once or broken up into three 10-minute sessions. Find an activity you enjoy so you’re more apt to stick with it. Go for a brisk walk or take an exercise class at your local recreation center. (But get your healthcare provider’s OK first if you’ve been inactive.)
Revamp the way you eat
- Eat a low-sodium diet, get regular activity, quit smoking and lose weight to bring down high blood pressure. If you’re stressed, try relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi or meditation.
- A diet rife with saturated and trans fats can increase cholesterol levels. A better bet is eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats. Oatmeal, walnuts and cold-water fish such as salmon are some foods that can actually help lower your cholesterol.
- Get at least an hour to an hour and a half on most days of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity, such as brisk walking or running, to help you lose weight. Make sure you’re not exceeding your daily calorie requirements and concentrate on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Two in three people with diabetes die of heart disease and stroke. Keep your blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol within recommended ranges. Meet regularly with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to learn how you can keep your heart healthy.